Attending to grammar in a second language: Evidence from classroom experiments and priming techniques Emma Marsden University of York firstname.lastname@example.org
Overview Input processing in L2 learning In the L2 classroom: Processing Instruction Part 1: A classroom experiment to investigate the effects of PI Part 2: A laboratory study to investigate whether attentional orientation affects what learners process from the input
Claims about input processing To learn a form, you must ‘detect’ it in the input you hear and read i.e. connect the form to a meaning or function BUT L2 learners don’t always do this reliably VanPatten suggests learners: process content words in the input before anything else e.g. Il a mangé au restaurant (The Primacy of Content Words Principle) will tend to rely on lexical items as opposed to grammatical form to get meaning when both encode the same semantic information. e.g. Hier, il a mangé au restaurant (The Lexical Preference Principle)
‘Communicative redundancy’ A language feature (could be phonological, morphological, syntactic, even paralinguistic feature) which is not the only way used to communicate a specific ‘meaning’ VanPatten claims learners are less likely to try to get any meaning from redundant forms And therefore less likely to learn them Instead, he claims learners get the same meaning from ‘lexical items’ This hypothesis assumes that the systems involved with processing input (working memory, selective attention) have a limited capacity
Also relevant: Attentional blocking theory Nick Ellis’s “Attentional Blocking” theory –Ellis (2008), Ellis & Sagarra (a & b in press). Reliance on cues learnt late in L1 acquisition, leads to lack of attention to particular cues in L2 acquisition E.g. As infants we learn temporal cognition after verb morphology – we use “talked” reliably and accurately before “yesterday” As L2 learners, this blocks our attention to inflectional cues Other variables too: salience, WM constrains longer distance dependencies in L1 learning, different learning mechanisms in L1 and L2 (phonological sensitivities, implicit)
Evidence that communicative redundancy affects SLA Production data Eye-tracking data (Bernhardt, 1987) Reading comprehension data (Jiang, 2004) Think aloud data (VanPatten 1996, & 2002 for review) Learners match subjects and verbs according to likely semantics rather than morphosyntax: 1)Victoria Beckham a) chantons et dansons (sing+1 st pl. and dance+1 st pl.) 2) Nous b) étudie l’anglais (We) (study+sing. English) (Marsden, 2006)
Can we train learners to process the input better? Can we train them to overcome communicative redundancy?
What is Processing Instruction? Learners engaged in input activities (listening & reading) only Based on principle that learners ‘ use ’ lexical items more than bound inflections when processing input – and that this can be altered by manipulating the input PI has been researched for many target features (morphosyntax, e.g. subjunctive, clitic object pronouns), mainly Romance languages and English.
Three components of Processing Instruction 1) Explicit information (1 minute basic explanation; NOT used in this study) When we talk about something that happened in the past, we add ‘ed’ to the end of the verb Remember to notice that; not words like “yesterday”. 2) Referential activities When did this happen? 1)I walked to town Last week / Usually 2)I wash the carLast week / Usually No other cues given 3) Affective activities Do you think your teacher is telling the truth? 1.I talked to the Queen True / False 2.I marked some homeworkTrue / False
Example of referential activity Some of Delia ’ s diary entries have got smudged. Decide whether Delia has written about an event that happened in her previous summer holidays or if she is referring to something she usually does in the summer holidays. 1. I learn Spanish. a. last summer b. usually does 2. My family visited Paris. a. last summer b. usually does 3. I play tennis with my friends. a. last summer b. usually does
Example of affective activity Delia has written a diary entry about her family ’ s last summer holidays. What do you think about her activities? 1. My family visited Paris. a. interesting b. boring 2. I learned Japanese. a. interesting b. boring 3. My family painted the wall. a. interesting b. boring
PI research to date (1) The cause of PI ‘ s effectiveness is the Structured Input Activities = referential + affective activities i.e. explicit information provided does not seem to affect results. Problem 1: Studies so far have treated referential and affective activities as ONE ( “ structured input ” ) BUT they are very different
Research to date (2) PI leads to learning gains Compared to ‘ rule & output practice ’ (traditional grammar teaching) Similar gains to meaning-based output practice (PI useful because oral and written production gains even though they don ’ t practice this! Time efficient!) Better than input flood style activities with explicit information (Marsden 2006) On ‘ controlled ’ measures written production, word level oral production, listening and reading tests. Problem 2: These measures do not show any evidence of language competence / implicit knowledge.
The roles of structured input activities in Processing Instruction, and the kinds of knowledge they promote Emma Marsden (email@example.com) Hsin-Ying Chen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is role of affective activities? Claimed: affective activities “reinforce form- meaning connections” made during referential activities (VanPatten 1996,2004, Wong 2004, p.44) –affective activities contribute to learning gains Or…
Perhaps the affective activities don’t contribute to grammar learning in instructed SLA Perhaps only referential activities lead to learning gains –Perhaps the affective activities do something else e.g. improve vocabulary, or fluency? (not presented today…)
Problem 2 Claim: PI alters “implicit knowledge” and “underlying competence” Or…is the knowledge gained explicit? “Even though learners in [the PI] group were never given the rules, they were constantly given yes/no feedback, which must have led them to figure out the system” (DeKeyser et al. 2002 p. 813). Why bother to find out what kind of knowledge PI leads to? –Implicit thought to be less prone to corruption over time, and less context- and task-sensitive, so possibly more useful knowledge than explicit. –But explicit knowledge probably leads to quicker learning (useful in time-limited classroom foreign language learning!)
Research questions 1.Do affective activities, either alone or following referential activities, have any impact on learning the -ed past tense inflection? 2. Does any learning observed tend to have characteristics of explicit or implicit knowledge at test?
The study: A classroom experiment Pretest ↓ Participants randomly assigned to 3 groups based on pre-test scores ↓ ↓ ↓ Ref + Aff Referential only Affective only Instruction : 4 x 40 mins (twice a week in two consecutive weeks) immediate posttest 1 month delayed posttest
The allocation of the participants class 1 RARA class 2 RARA class 3 RARA control group Control group chosen at random; Four classes from same school.
The outcome measurements ‘ Explicit knowledge ’ = accessed when no time constraint, no/little communicative pressure –Written gap-fill test ‘ Implicit knowledge ’ = time pressure and/or communicative pressure 1.Grammaticality Judgment Test with a time constraint (Ellis, 2005) + self-report 2.Oral tests: a) picture-based narration b) semi-structured conversation + self-report
Grammaticality Judgment Test GROUPNMean Pre test (total possible = 40) Mean post test Mean delayed post test Ref + Aff 31112223 Referential 29112120 Affective 301214 Control 301213
Results of the gap-fill test GROUPNMean pre test (out of 8) Mean post test Mean delayed post test Referential + Affective 310.02.32.7 Referential 290.01.92.1 Affective 300.00.10.3 Control 300.0
Picture-based oral narration n pretestposttestDelayed post test Ref + Aff 10 0.81.52.0 Referential 9 0.71.10.1 Affective 9 0.30.1 Control 9 0.30.70.8
Semi-structured conversation Mean suppliance in obligatory contexts (%) n pretestposttestDelayed post test Ref + Aff 10 10.0 13.4 Referential 9 10.03.70.0 Affective 9 5.60.03.7 Control 9 220.127.116.11
So it looks mixed: No gains in oral production (=no gains in knowledge accessible under time and communicative pressure) But gains in timed GJT (often seen as evidence of underlying language competence)
Evidence from self-report from GJT and from oral tests When you were doing the test, did you think about any rules? (yes) Did you use that rule in the test? (yesx2) What was the rule? (give example or describe it)
Evidence from self-report Rule-users consistently out-performed the non-rule users. Non-rule users did not improve much more than the control group or the affective group So, the gains observed in the GJT amongst the learners who had done referential activities, were likely due to explicit knowledge.
Conclusions Problem 1: Affective activities, alone, or with Ref activities, did not help learning “ -ed ”. Referential activities (not “ Structured Input ” ) were cause of learning in previous Processing Instruction studies? Problem 2: Learning gains tended to show characteristics of explicit knowledge Self-report (a conservative estimate)
BUT… might a different way of observing ‘learning’ provide some evidence that learners pay attention to verb inflections when they are asked to focus on the meaning of the sentence? Perhaps our measures were not sensitive enough to ‘implicit’ processes that occur when learners hear or read input…
Calls for implicit techniques to research constraints during input processing “To investigate whether morphological knowledge is automatically activated in spontaneous communication, one needs a research method that allows us to examine L2 learners’ performance under a condition in which their use of explicit, nonautomatic knowledge is minimized.” Jiang (2004: 608). “measures such as those adopted in implicit memory studies … may be more sensitive measures than those requiring on- or off-line production and verbalisation of the contents of awareness” Robinson (2003: 639). “finely grained cognitive and perceptual measures” Segalowitz (2006: 137)
Part 2: Priming of verb inflections in L2 French, and the effects of orientation of attention Emma Marsden, Gerry Altmann, Michelle St. Clair email@example.com Funded by the University of York & Economic and Social Research Council PTA-026-27-0252
What is priming? … a memory phenomenon that increases the efficiency of and/or changes the nature of processing repeated or related stimuli. Priming effects have been seen as window into long term memory and learning processes (Bock & Griffin, 2000), particularly implicit processes.
What is priming? The effect that exposure to feature X has on: –Subsequent speed of responding to X (or related stimuli) –And / or subsequent accuracy, use, preference, opinion about X (or related stimuli) This “response” and “speed” data are compared to responses to items without prior exposure Initial exposure = the prime = “study phase” Subsequent exposure = the target = “Test”
Priming & SLA Reviews: McDonough & Trofimovich (2009), Marsden (2009) Semantic priming, stimuli & target related –bilingual lexicon –cross- and within-language Repetition priming, stimuli & target the same –Within language –Syntactic priming in oral interaction –(Kim & McDonough 2008, McDonough, 2006; McDonough & Mackey 2008) –Acoustic word priming –(Trofimovich 2005 & 2008, Trofimovich & Gatbanton, 2006) –Role of orientation to the form or meaning of words at exposure –Links to pedagogical agendas (focus on form, explicit/implicit)
Priming evidence about the role of orientation of attention to the input NO effect on priming in L1 learners or adults (Church & Schacter 1994; Church & Fisher 1998) In an L2: a semantic orientation to the input did interfere with priming For those with relatively lower pronunciation accuracy When exposure and test were in different voices L2 research to date: –with intermediates & advanced bilinguals –focus on isolated lexical items –orientation tasks: rate word pleasantness (=meaning) and rate word clarity (=perceptual, form) –outcome measurements: reaction times for repeating words
Aims of current study RQ: Can we observe priming of French verb inflections amongst beginner L2 learners? a) are such priming effects influenced by whether learners are oriented to the form or sentence meaning? b) are such priming effects observed both in reaction times and the nature of the responses? Hypothesis: Priming effects after ‘focus on form’, no priming after ‘focus on sentence meaning’
Methods Participants 51 beginner learners of French as a foreign language Aged 12-13 L1 English Approx. 100-200 hours exposure to classroom instruction From 5 local schools Design Individuals randomly assigned to one of two exposure conditions; All then did a lexical decision to test for priming effects Individual basis, using EPrime.
Design: Exposure phase Focus on Form condition Attention to form essential Similarities with referential activities in Processing Instruction (VanPatten 2004) –Is the speaker talking about something they do with other people? Press ‘with other people’ or ‘not’ Remember, in French we use ‘ons’ at the end of the verb if the speaker is talking about something they do with other people. 30 ‘ons’ inflections 10 nontargets First 6 items only, ‘correct / incorrect’ feedback
Design: Exposure phase Focus on Sentence Meaning condition Illogicality judgements (Daneman & Carpenter 1980; Walters, 2004) Do these sentences make sense or are they a bit weird? Press ‘normal’ or ‘odd’. 15 logical, 15 nonsense 30 ‘ons’ inflections Focus on semantics of verb + complement Activation of representation of the subject and the inflection would be incidental to task
Test phase All did same lexical decision test “Real word or made-up?” All verb stems were made-up, but legal Random presentation order 10 verbs with target (=‘heard’) inflections (-ons) 10 verbs with same verb stems but with nontarget (=‘unheard’) inflections (all different) Hypothesis: Focus on Form participants faster and prefer ‘-ons’ compared to unheard inflections Focus on Sentence Meaning participants no difference between ‘–ons’ and unheard inflections
How did the FonF exposure condition go? (accurate attention on the inflection?) Inflectionmean correct Above chance score (50%)? -ons69%YES p<0.01 other64%YES p<0.05
Baseline parity between conditions At test, no difference between the FF and FSM groups’ responses to +unheard inflections –Speed of responses –responding “real word”, t=.481, p=.633 –responding “nonword”, t=.361, p=.719 –Nature of the responses –t=.461, p=.647
Results: Lexical decision actual responses Test itemResponse given: FF (mean out of 10) FSM (mean out of 10) Target (heard) inflections ‘Real word’5.74.7 ‘Nonword’4.35.3 Nontarget (unheard) inflections ‘Real word’4.85.0 ‘Nonword’5.25.0
Conclusions (1) Of theoretical interest: –French verb inflections can be primed, at least amongst early learners In line with decompositional morphology models (Marslen- Wilson, 2007) & evidence that derivational morphology can be primed (Marslen-Wilson et al. 1996) –Inflections were not primed when learners trying to understand sentence meaning In line with Trofimovich’s (2006 & 2008) findings that semantic orientation interferes with priming for some learners Contra studies with L1 adult and learners, & contra Trofimovich’s (2005) L2ers –Orienting beginners’ attention to a verb inflection did prime it Compatible with “attention necessary in early stages of SLA” perspectives
Conclusions (2) Of methodological interest –Priming techniques useful for researching focal attention during input processing as a function of task type. –Differences were observed in both reaction times and actual responses (parity of measures??) Of applied interest –Informed us about priming under conditions broadly comparable with classroom learning environments: beginner learners language which was not necessarily familiar input tasks which were broadly based on instructional events
Limitations & future work 1.Awareness of the inflections in the ‘sentence meaning’ condition –But any such awareness didn’t produce priming effects! 2.Referential activities conflate ‘attention to form’ with ‘redundancy’ –FonF: no overt subject (nous), so inflection non-redundant –FSM: with co-indexed subject, so inflection redundant Could be that less activation of inflection in FSM because of overt subject –But FSM task focused on verb + complement –Presence or absence of subject not essential for decision about illogicality, so wouldn’t change our results?? 3.Does proficiency influence priming? Do roles of attention and redundancy change with proficiency? Proficiency influences nature of what can be processed, and amount of explicitness needed (Carroll 2001; VanPatten 2004; Ellis 2002; Robinson 1995; Schmidt 1990 & 2001) Lexicon & morphosyntax relationship (Bates & Goodman 1997, Thordardottir et al. 2002)
Ongoing… Orientation of attention and priming Experiment using an artificial language in collaboration with John Williams: –identical stimuli in 3 conditions: form focus (count the syllables); inflection focus (referential activities); meaning of stem focus A classroom experiment, to see whether just focussing learners on the form of an inflection is enough, or whether form AND meaning leads to same results
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Preliminary follow-up study With intermediates and natives Inflection -ions: Focus on Sentence Meaning: “nous mangions la table”: weird? versus Focus on Form: “mangions la table”: speaker + others? We might expect priming in FonF for 3 reasons: –the grammatical anomaly (increases activation) –the orientation of attention (increases activation) –the absence of co-indexed subject (non-redundant = more activation). And yet NO priming was found: no differences in reaction times or preferences between the two conditions SO – at higher proficiency, perhaps the inflection was activated even when focusing on sentence meaning & inflection redundant (compatible with VanPatten) BUT: –Reaction times were long (1500ms) and so perhaps priming effects were masked by a task artefact –If there was activation, we’d expect priming of heard versus unheard inflection in FSM too – not found. –Could be difficult to elicit priming verb inflections amongst higher proficiencies? –Perhaps holistic storage?